With many Reds warming to the Europa League, RFFH’s Saad Noor went to witness United’s first game in the competition for 17 years.
It’s understandable why the Europa League is often looked down upon with our last opponent in the competition being Mighty Rotor Volgograd of Russia but with many not too bothered about results in the competition it is viewed as a bonus cup and the bit on the side if all else fails.
But the draw which saw us pitted against European giants Ajax slightly changed that as thousands of Reds, including myself, saw it as the ideal opportunity to have a little holiday and use football as the excuse.
A few friends and I thought it’d be a good idea to drive to Amsterdam and it turned out to be a good one, despite the fact that it meant a 5.30am start to head down to Dover for a 9am Ferry to Dunkirk. I didn’t finish work until 11pm the night before and thought it’d be wise to do an all-nighter and sleep on the journey.. Big mistake! I only managed 30 minutes of shut-eye on the drive down to Dover and we had breakfast on the ferry. My eyes could barely remain open and I found a quiet spot on the ferry to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
I woke up to the announcement that we were at Dunkirk. Feeling refreshed, it was time to hit the road again. I didn’t realise how close France and Belgium were because after 15 minutes we had passed the Belgian border. No other United fans in site thus far. After stopping for lunch it was full steam ahead Amsterdam!
With a 7pm local time kick-off, we were in a bit of a rush to make it down to Amsterdam on time. We got lost on the way and eventually made it to our hotel at 3.30 which gave us good time to get down to the stadium and get tickets. Yeah, we came ticketless.
After jumping on the tram and metro to the beautiful Amsterdam ArenA we had 2 hours to get tickets. It was tough, but in true United fashion, with just minutes to spare we got our hands on some tickets. On the tram we met an Ajax fan who told us she hated Patrice Evra (who is known as the ‘handshake guy’ out there) because he is a troublemaker and that she was also critical of Sir Alex Ferguson for his treatment of Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
It was time to get into the ground and it was a typical European away day. There was news that a large group of Reds hadn’t made it down in time for the game as police had to intervene in the late afternoon after groups of both Ajax and United fans began chanting and making threatening gestures towards each other across a canal. Mounted police separated the groups into narrow lines and then riot police on foot forced them to leave the area and cordoned it off.
The police could be seen detaining several supporters for throwing small objects in another square in the city centre but have not disclosed whether any were arrested.
On Wednesday night 76 Ajax supporters suspected of seeking a confrontation with United fans were arrested. A police spokesman said the men were rounded up under heightened security rules ordered by the city’s mayor and found to have had weapons including knives, brass knuckles, tear gas and clubs as well as “a large amount of narcotics”.
Back at the Amsterdam ArenA and it was a sight to behold, a truly beautiful modern stadium which still holds the air of history that the De Meer Stadion had before being demolished. The United fans were cordoned off into a corner high in the stadium with glass panes covering them from Ajax fans and the travelling Reds were largely outdone by the home crowd who were very vocal.
However, after being kept behind for 30 minutes the away crew kept themselves entertained with chants including: “Thursday nights, in Amsterdam” and “The city is ours, the city is ours. 20,000 prostitutes, the city is ours.”
After a hard-fought win, United fans certainly did paint the town red.
Follow Saad on Twitter- Twitter: @saadnoor